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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Joanne Messenlehner Honored on 77th Birthday

L to R: Sarah Kaboly, Valerie Kiltie, Lamont McClure, Kaija Farber, Joanne Messenlehner,
Lori Vargo Heffner, John Morganelli, Geri Stofko Ameri
Most people in Northampton County politics know Joanne Messenlehner as a Democratic activist, a two-time party chair who has orchestrated numerous campaigns over the years. What many don't know is that she grew up on Bethlehem's south side. A Stofko, she was the first member of her family to go to college. She went on to become a teacher and swim coach in the Bethlehem Area School District, and moved her family out of the projects.

Joanne Messenlehner with granddaughter
Sarah Kaboly and daughter Mary Lou Kaboly
When she got into teaching, she took her little sister with her to many of her classes and extracurricular activities. That sister, Geri Ameri, became a health and physical education teacher like her big sister. So did her brother and her daughter. Ameri is now athletic director at a high school in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood. "She was a role model to me," she said, as she told tales of sleeping in a double bed with two other sisters.

Messenlehner, who just turned 77, was recently honored by family and friends in a roast at Holy Family Manor (now called the Phoenix).

Lamont McClure, John Morganelli, Rich Grucela, Jane Wells Schooley and many other prominent politicians were there to pay their respects. So were numerous of her Bethlehem friends, including Valerie Kiltie, Kaija Farber, Mary Ann Ursu, Nancy Dieter Lilly and Connie Glagola.

Noting that she received a birthday card from Reichel Funeral Home, Messenlehner quipped, "They don't fool me. They only want my body."

She said America is already great. "If we weren't great, we wouldn't have so many people trying to come into this country."


Anonymous said...

It was Holy Family social hall not Holy Family Manor!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whatever. Actually, it is now called the Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this event! It was a great night!

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was very nice, and I enjoyed the humor.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the coverage, Bernie. Joanne is a local hero